Acupuncture for Depression and Schizophrenia Through Sleep and Emotional Regulation

SleeperA new study published in the journal “EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing” has stated that acupuncture is a safe and effective adjunct treatment for major depressive disorder and also found that it was effective in the treatment of insomnia and schizophrenia through mood, sleep and emotional regulation.  The researchers preformed a meta-analysis of acupuncture studies for depression and insomnia and found that through acupuncture’s ability to regulate and improve sleep, a patient’s emotional responses, mood and symptoms of depression and schizophrenia were lessened. Benefits of sleep regulation included less activity during sleep, deeper sleep, less day time drowsiness and improved ability to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.

Emotional regulation was also found to have improve through the usage of diagnostic scales that evaluate a person’s level of depression or anxiety such as the Beck Depression Inventory and the Hamilton Rating Scale. A significant reduction of depressive symptoms and mood was found in those patients undergoing depression. Also schizophrenic patients also saw significantly reduced levels of anxiety and overall mood improvement.

The researchers also cited several studies in their analysis of schizophrenic patients that found that schizophrenic patients undergoing acupuncture therapy had less anxiety, experienced less hallucinations and felt less disturbed in general. In addition the study found in several instances that acupuncture was an effective way to reduce the chronic usage of schizophrenic medications, stating that acupuncture with minimum levels of psychiatric medications were found to be as effective as high dosages of psychiatric medications used alone. Additionally side effects from these medications such as involuntary muscles spasms, tardive dyskinesia, and stooped posture were also significantly improved.

In looking at the proposed method for how acupuncture achieves these effects, the researcher’s proposed that acupuncture is able to regulate a series of regions of the brain called the DMN or” Default Mode Network”, that are activated during periods of rest and sleep. It is thought that in people suffering from depression and schizophrenia that these regions of the brain are improperly regulated resulting in poor sleep and emotional regulation.

From a Chinese medicine prospective, depression is most of the time related to poor regulation of the emotions and usually is related the Liver and the Heart in traditional Chinese medicine. The Liver is responsible for the smooth flow of qi and blood throughout the body in addition to the regulation of emotions. Each organ has an associated emotion, but all emotions will affect the Heart, which is considered the seat and home of the mind. Unregulated, excessive, or undealt with emotions will eventually stagnate the flow of the Liver Qi resulting in depression, frustration, anger, and if it affects the Heart, anxiety and insomnia may result.

Schizophrenia in some ways can also be related to the Liver, Gallbladder, and Heart and can also include the idea of a pathogen known as phlegm, which has many forms and manifestations, but which can frequently cloud the mind and produce confusion, trouble thinking and possible hallucinations.

Each case is different and Chinese medicine always strives to come up with a differential diagnosis so that we can determine not only what is wrong, but why is it going wrong, so that not only are the symptoms treated, but also the root cause for the problem.

Acupuncture is great for helping to regulate the emotions and stress that we all deal with on a daily basis so that emotions are acknowledged and processed, but are allowed to move on so that they do not bind us down. Of course some emotional events can take more of a toll on our lives and require more time to process, but Chinese medicine can still help move this process along so that we do not hit snags and get bogged down. Herbal Medicines can also be extremely effective to help regulate the emotions and mental states as well as treating many forms of insomnia and their underlying causes.

Of course, major depressive disorder and schizophrenia are serious issues that should not be taken lightly and should be evaluated by psychiatric professionals, however acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicines can be a very effective and safe adjunct treatment to include alongside traditional counseling and other therapies.

If you have any questions about depression, mental and emotional issues, or any other health issue, please do not hesitate to call or email me, I would love to speak with you!

For a summary of the study, click here.


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Christopher Shiflett L.Ac  M.S. TCM, Dipl. O.M. (NCCAOM)

Christopher Shiflett L.Ac M.S. TCM, Dipl. O.M. (NCCAOM)

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